Attorneys interested in the machinations of how federal judges are selected, nominated, confirmed and appointed will find an insightful look behind the scenes in "The Nominee: A Political and Spiritual Journey," the new book by U.S. Fifth Circuit Judge Leslie H. Southwick published by University Press of Mississippi. But the memoir goes beyond legal intrigue and provides and entertaining and exhaustive study of the politics of judicial confirmation for all those interested in the past and future of the judiciary.

(Legal or political history nerds will also find helpful his appendix reviewing the background of selection for all Fifth Circuit judges from 1869 to 2012.)

Southwick provides an honest account of his struggle to reach the court of appeals bench: ambition checked by humility; calculated moves tempered by seeking God's will; partisan conflict in which he becomes a pawn for a battle not his own but holding his future career in the balance.

Southwick's recounting of his story benefits from a diary of sorts filled with notes on meetings, calls, correspondence and news accounts beginning in 1991 when he first began aggressively pursuing a federal court appointment. But his story reaches back to his first political experiences - a volunteer for George H.W. Bush's failed 1970 U.S. Senate campaign in Texas and later his work on Thad Cochran's successful 1978 U.S. Senate campaign in Mississippi. Southwick remained close to the Bush family through two presidents - one of which (George W. Bush) nominated him to both the district court (the nomination expired) and to the Fifth Circuit (ultimately successful) - and served as the Mississippi Chairman for Bush for President in 1980. Southwick credits Cochran for doing the heavy lifting in his confirmation fight and dedicates the book to Cochran's "enduring friendship [that] kept the journey alive."

While the current political atmosphere in Mississippi have many discussing the friction between "establishment Republicans" and the Tea Party, division in the Mississippi Republican Party is nothing new and Southwick gives perspective into factions including the 1976 split over Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan, and the lesser conflict between the 1980 primary between Reagan and George H.W. Bush, mostly healed by Bush's selection as Reagan's vice-president and later president himself. But the Bush family is famously loyal and those commitments to their colleagues are apparent in Southwick's recount.

In addition to the litany of Mississippi Republican operatives discussed in the book, Southwick's encounters from his time as a U.S. Deputy Assistant Attorney General and as a prospective and actual nominee is a "who's who" list of the Washington Republican legal establishment including Ken Starr, John Roberts and Boyden Gray.

Southwick reflects on his time on the Mississippi Court of Appeals and his campaign in 1994 where he walked the district and attempted to earn the name, which he says did not take, of "Walkin' Les." The successful campaign managed by then State Representative Ken Stribling, was followed by an unsuccessful campaign for state Supreme Court in 1996 (won by now Mississippi Chief Justice Bill Waller, Jr.). Southwick spent twelve years on the Court of Appeals.

In 2006, Southwick was nominated for a federal district judge position but that nomination expired without action by the Senate. In 2007, after the U.S. Senate had blocked the nominations of first Judge Charles Pickering, Sr. and later attorney Michael Wallace, Southwick was chosen and his real battle against liberal special interest groups began.

Through meetings with Democratic Senators explaining his court opinions, efforts by Cochran and Senator Trent Lott in persuading their colleagues, and the White House rejecting "deals" as it had rejected with Pickering's nomination, ultimately Southwick was confirmed overcoming a filibuster by three votes and then confirmed with a 59 vote majority.

The book is not only a political memoir, but a story of a man following his faith and acknowledging his own failures.

It is also another testament to the broken judicial confirmation process.

Having worked for then Congressman Chip Pickering during the confirmation fight to the Fifth Circuit of his father Judge Charles Pickering and subsequently assisting the senior Pickering with two books recounting the ordeal, I find similar emotions and observations from Southwick and many others who have commented on the judicial selection process. An honorable man is frustrated when his character is assaulted. There is a desire for people to know the truth. A nominee and his family face anguish over months and years as the process drags on at "glacial" speed with their lives and careers in limbo. Those observations are not only from Republican nominees, but also from Democrats. The judicial confirmation process fails nominees and needs reform. Pickering suggested a number of reforms in his books and Southwick's book is an exhibit for the pressing need to provide a reliable and fair (to both parties) mechanism to confirm or reject nominees.

Brian Perry is a columnist for the Madison County Journal and a partner with Capstone Public Affairs, LLC. Reach him at or @CapstonePerry on Twitter.